We can pray for a desire for the Lent experience which begins on Ash Wednesday. We pray with our holy desires for purity of heart, sincerity of mind, and generosity of action.
When all these things happen she will say, “I will go back to my first husband, I was happier then than I am now.” What we hear in today’s reading is the Lord’s response to “her” conversion away from the false and toward the true and holy. God, Who has been so violent and threatening as a jilted husband. Now this injured husband makes protestations of love, fidelity and mercy. God’s love surpasses God’s words of anger and rejection.
Israel, for “her” part must be attracted out into the desert so that freed from, stripped from, all “her” distractions, God would be able to speak directly to “her” heart. Empty is not nothing. Being stripped is the beginning of being re-dressed. These coming days of the Lenten call, are days of reflecting on those things which dress us up as anything or anybody else than who God has formed us to be.
The Gospel seems to have two distinct sections, but actually it is one whole cloth. Jesus is asked why His disciples do not fast, but those of John the Baptist and the Pharisees do. I would like to know why Jesus did not ask in return whether or not the disciples of John and the Pharisees knew why they are fasting rather than why Jesus’ disciples are not.
Instead of my response, Jesus made a more direct reply. He poses Himself to be the “bridegroom,” who, while with His friends, is the cause of great celebration. When the day comes for the “Bridegroom” to be taken away, then there is cause for sadness and fasting. This practice of fasting would be a protest of longing and waiting. Jesus is saying that the One longed-for right in their midst and His disciples were learning this slowly. This is very new, different and to take it all in there has to be a different kind of heart and receptivity. His teachings, His ways, His very presence demands hearing, seeing, and believing.
Jesus follows the “bridegroom”/fasting saying with two practical examples explaining what He was telling them, not about fasting, but about discipleship. He is the “new cloth” and the “new wine” and those who can take Him on and take Him in will be His disciples. If the disciples of John and the Pharisees cannot adapt to Him as Messiah and His teachings as the new revelation from God, then they are old cloth and old wineskins who cannot receive what is being offered.
There is no doubt but that the disciples of John and the Pharisees were devout and religious people. There is also no doubt but that Jesus was a religious radical and difficult for the religious people of His time to welcome and understand Him and His ways. The Sabbath is a holy day and there are laws and customs about doing things on that day. What does Jesus do, but work miracles besides. Immediately before these verses, the Pharisees notice the He is eating with tax collectors and sinners. Immediately after these same verses, the disciples of Jesus will be walking with Jesus through a corn field and actually picking and eating some of the corn, on the Sabbath. Of course the Pharisees see this too and have a very difficult time believing and accepting Jesus as anything, but a rebellious unreligious fellow from the hills.
Ash Wednesday is this week and Lent’s beginning.
I would suggest a new kind of fasting. I have an old Green Bay Packer
sweat shirt; definitely a true religious article. I am going to
drag it out of its reliquary and hang it on my cabinet door. It
represents what is old, customary in my safe relationship with Jesus
and life itself. I also received for Christmas a new Packer shirt.
I think I will hang that up as well to remind me of the new self
whom Jesus is calling into life. I would not put patches from the
new shirt on the old. Instead of wearing a hair shirt or sackcloth,
I will wear the old traditional, comfortable and secure old shirt
as a reminder of the old-self, to whom Jesus comes, compassionately,
to change. I am not sure I will wear my new Packer shirt at the
liturgy for Easter Vigil and Sunday mass. I suspect there will still
be much of the old Packer within me, but perhaps, by God’s
grace, the new Packer shirt will feel a bit more comfortable.
“I will sing to the Lord for His goodness to me, I will sing to the Name of the Lord Most High.” Ps. 13, 6
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook